VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers have their backup for Carter Hart.
Brian Elliott on Wednesday signed a one-year, $2 million contract extension with the Flyers. The 34-year-old was set to become an unrestricted free agent after two seasons with the Flyers in which he went 34-22-8 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .908 save percentage over 69 games (65 starts). He has battled injuries each year, missing a 40-game stretch last season because of a lower-body injury and significant time in 2017-18 following core muscle surgery he underwent on Feb. 13.
The backup to Hart will be crucial in 2019-20. Not only will Hart be just 21 years old and facing his first full NHL season, but the Flyers also play 17 back-to-back sets, which is four more than they did a year ago. Thirteen of those sets will be a part of stretches in which the Flyers play three games in four nights.
"Brian has played well for us the last two seasons," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a release by the team. "He is a proven, quality goaltender who competes and battles hard every time he has the net. We are excited to have him rejoin our team."
The Flyers had Elliott and Cam Talbot, two soon-to-be unrestricted free agents, as No. 2 options. They also could have gone the trade or free-agent market route. Fletcher, though, had more pressing areas to address like signing Kevin Hayes to bolster the forwards, reshaping the defense and creating as much cap flexibility as possible. Elliott was a veteran, cost-effective, internal option, but was he the best option?
While Elliott doesn't appear as the most reliable backup given his age and recent injury history, he's played in a tandem for most his career, is familiar with the Flyers and has at least been productive when healthy. He'll have to prove he can stay healthy enough to spell Hart from time to time. If he can't, the Flyers could be in trouble — again — and scrambling for somebody that can be trusted (see story).
At his end-of-the season press conference, you could sense Elliott's competitiveness.
"The mentor thing gets kind of caught up. It's a tough word choice," Elliott said. "I think [Hart] needs someone that is going to help him along the way and push him to be better. Hartsy is a great young goalie and is going to be good in this league for a long time. The Philly fans have a lot to look forward to."
The Flyers have around $16 million in cap space if Philippe Myers is on the roster over David Schlemko. Fletcher has to re-sign restricted free agents Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Scott Laughton and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
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